Large cats have been spotted all throughout Europe by various people of various proffessions but still the mystery of their existence remains. The most prevalent species of cat are the black panther, the puma and the lynx.
Danny Nineham, who has monitored sightings since the early 1990s, speaking to BBC News said: "I think it boils down to the amount of people we have in these locations who are now logging the sightings."
More than 430 big cats were reported in 2001. There were 63 reports from Leicestershire, 53 from Gloucestershire and 45 in Norfolk. In Wiltshire, six people reported spotting a puma "sunbathing" at the same time. Mr Nineham said: "Private circuses travelling the country have allowed animals to escape. There is a potential danger and I know of 10 reports of children being attacked across the UK.
Danny Nineham also said "In the 1960s and 1970s, people had big cats like leopards as pets and they used to walk them like dogs. But in 1976 when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force, people released their cats because they did not want to pay for a licence, put them down, or take them to a zoo. A big cat is a solitary animal and will not attack as a rule... it is quite happy to live by stealth and keep out of your way. But there is a potential danger and I know of 10 reports of children being attacked across the UK since the 1980s."
Mr Nineham, who acts as a consultant for police forces when they investigate sightings, maintains that the risk presented by wild cats is not taken seriously by the government.
"Really the official line is that they do not exist," he added.
The British Big Cats Society website also shows Scotland to be a major source of sightings, which Mr Nineham attributed to the size and rural nature of the country.
Beast Of Broadoak, 1995
On the 29 March 1995 Chris Evans filmed a black cat in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. The footage was shown on TV. He filmed two big cats at a distance of 400 yards the following day which was dismissed by many as large domestic cats.
Black Beast Of Exmoor, 1987
This 'Black Beast of Exmoor' was believed to be responsible for the death of over 200 farm animals in 1987, during a 5 month period in Exmoor, England. A cat like creature was sighted by the local population several times.
Cornwall Cat, 1996
Richard Hunt, a London Policeman, caught a big cat on video at St Ives Bay Holiday Park near Hayle in Cornwall, England on 19 July 1996.
The cat was about 300 yards away (275 metres), when it was crossing dunes, and even passed within 20 feet (16 metres) of a caravan. On 17 August 1996, a big cat was seen at Hayle from a distance of 20 yards (18 metres) with a rabbit in its mouth. One of the three witnesses was actually a zoo keeper from Durham.
More than seventeen 6 inch wide pawprints with extended claws were found in mud, clay and concrete close to the sea wall at Coopers Beach Holiday Park, East Mersea, Essex, England in January 1996. Pictured left is a paw print left in wet concrete at the caravan park. Several sightings were reported during January as well as the mutilation of a goat and seven sheep.
Grampian Big Cat
The carcass of a lamb thought to have been the victim of a big cat was found in Strichen, Grampian, Scotland on 8 June 1995.
Herfordshire Big Cat
Ann Suter an enviromental health animal welfare technician with Welwyn and Hatfield council, examined the chewed bumper from Madelaine Dinsmore's Range Rover in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, England. She suspected a big cat like a puma was responsible for the damage on 23 January 1997.
On 17 February 1997, marksmen from the Royal Ulster Constabulary shot dead an African caracal lynx, prowling close to sheep in Fintona, Northern Ireland. It was wearing a black collar and was thought to be an escaped pet. No local animal collector confessed to ownership. Surprisingly the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 does not apply in Northern Ireland, so in theory anyone could keep a tiger in their back garden. In October 1995 an Artic wilf escaped from its owner in Linsnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, and was shot dead eight days later.
Wayne Broads filmed a cat on 7 August 1995 in the fields of Pawlett, Somerset, England.
The cat is estimated to be 6ft long and 3ft tall. Wayne saw the cat again two days later.
Puma of Surrey
From 1962 to 1967, the Surrey Puma was the most publicised mystery cat ever investigated in Britain. It provided some of the most memorable cat sightings on record.
One notable sighting was a classic encounter at Worplesdon on the 4th July 1996, when several police and villager eyewitnesses watched a large puma-like cat stalk and kill a rabbit no more than 100 yards away from them.
As large as a labrador, it had a cat-like face and ginger-brown fur.
In August 1966 ex-police photographer Ian Pert snapped a photo (pictured left) of a strange looking cat in Worplesdon. The photo was taken at a safe distance of around 35 yards away. The cat was estimated to be 3ft in length and of a sandy brown colour, with a small feline head, muscular body and thick tail.
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